I (Stuart St Paul) was the reluctant cruiser.
So was my actress wife, Jean (now presenter of the Doris Visits Cruise Ports Guides on YouTube).
Cruising never featured on our holiday list which was always led by skiing. Even when asked to go on a ship to represent Emmerdale, by my ITV producer, neither Jean nor I were excited. It was a job, and I was used to working all over the globe as a stuntman in international films, so agreed.
I ended up being the Action Adviser to Emmerdale for 26 years, but loving cruise was a lifetime addiction for both of us. That first cruise was almost all sea-days: Antigua, through the Panama Canal, and onto Papeete in Tahiti. It was on the Black Watch with Fred Olsen. We didn’t choose the ship, nor the route and never did an ounce of homework on it.
Being regulars at charity balls and gala first nights, the dressing up was almost my second uniform (first was a tracksuit) and Jean loves to dress up. The entertainment was fabulous and two of the ship’s acts appeared in the next movie I directed; the Icon/Netflix picture FREIGHT (the novel is called Human Freight).
Luckily, the talks were a huge hit and I had unexpected offers, including P&O, who asked me to guest on their fleet. It took two years before my schedule opened up and I did my first special guest lecture for them on the Aurora; back then they were evening events in the nightclub. I was no longer fixed to talking about ITV and other favourites like working on the Mrs Brown’s TV series, with Jean-Claude Van Damme, and being the Queen Alien in Aliens.
However, my diary of work rarely allowed me to take many cruises until I was nearly killed on a series made for HBO, and was to be out of work. At this time Jean had been making a hugely successful web series called Shades Of Bad and playing the character Doris, and I suggested we could shoot sections of it with her delivering packages to places in Norway as we were offered a cruise in the Fjords. With those episodes never written, she made it up as she went along and I held the camera – in truth I was the most rubbish cameraman as I had only a few times operated the camera, and then with a team of technicians from a focus puller down (my desert picture in Jordan is one such time).
It was obvious I was going to be out of work for years, and part of my PTSD recovery therapy was to encourage me to talk about the industry and write about it. Doing around 12 cruises a year was fabulous and Jean suggested a travel series of Port Guides.
Doris Visits was born.
As I could not go into the sun, I sat in the lounge on sea days and edited. Doris Visits soon established itself. That worked for Jean, but I needed to exercise the creative mind, and the action mystery series of cruise crime novels started. CRUISE SHIP HEIST was the first and CRUISE SHIP SERIAL KILLER was the second. Both used knowledge of my earliest cruise experiences.